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On my soapbox: The struggle with laundry at Princeton

I hate doing laundry at Princeton.

To be clear, I am very grateful that we have free laundry here, a luxury not afforded to students on many other college campuses. Nevertheless, I have seriously considered taking an Uber to a laundromat to avoid doing laundry on campus. All in all, I have found the University’s laundry rooms to be far from user-friendly, and the manner in which students conduct themselves in the laundry room to be rude and inconsiderate. Therefore, the University and the student body must work to create a more technologically updated, clean, and respectful laundry environment.

I live in a building that does not have washers and dryers conveniently located in its basement; consequently, I have to walk to another building to wash my clothes, hoping to avoid dropping a sock or bra as I struggle to get out my University ID card and open the door while carrying my laundry.

I certainly haven’t seen every laundry room on campus, but the ones I have seen are perpetually unclean. There is a layer of lint, dust, dirt, hair, and general grime on everything visible, and there are always articles of misplaced clothing atop the washers. The laundry room also has a generally unpleasant smell that started to work its way into my clothes. I’ve taken to using double the detergent and dryer sheets in an effort to make my clothes smell better and to be over 50 percent sure that my clothes are actually clean.

Further, the washers are outdated and far from user-friendly. I’m not expecting the cutting edge in laundry technology. But with the machines we have now, there is no way to open or stop the washer, to change settings, or to add a piece of clothing if a shirt was hiding at the bottom of my laundry bag. The washers are also surprisingly small. What I think of as one load of clothing is easily two in the University’s laundry rooms.

The dryers also have their set of issues. Although much bigger than the washers, they seem to struggle with actually drying my clothes. I’ve tried selecting different settings, putting less clothing in, and leaving clothing in for more than an hour. Yet, nine times out of 10, I open the dryer and find at least some of my clothes still damp.

But it’s not just the rooms and machines that make me dread doing laundry. How students conduct themselves while doing laundry at the University, that is, Princeton’s laundry culture, is at best lazy and inefficient, and at worst disrespectful and rude.

Recently, I saw on LaundryView, the website which allows students to remotely check the time left on laundry machines throughout campus, that plenty of washers were available. Hence, I thought it would be a good time to use a couple of washers to clean all my dirty clothes. When I reached the laundry room, however, I discovered that of the ten “available” washers, six were sitting full of clothes with zero minutes left. Another girl was filling three of the empty washers with her laundry, leaving one remaining washer for me. After waiting for a few minutes to see if someone would pick up their laundry, I shoved as much of my clothing in the empty machine as possible and went to lunch. I hoped that when I returned, someone would have come to remove their clothes, therefore allowing me to wash the rest of my clothes.

When I came back, eight of the 12 washers were sitting at zero, full of wet clothes. I ended up waiting for the same girl from earlier that day to return so I could fill the machines she emptied with my remaining laundry.

Now, if someone else had been in my situation, they might have acted differently. I know some students, faced with a full washer at zero, might just pile the wet clothes on top of the washer and load it with their own. I’ve talked to several students, and this seems to be the generally accepted practice to deal with this situation. Regardless, I don’t like touching my own wet clothes, let alone someone else’s. Likewise, I would be personally offended if I walked into the laundry room to see that someone had handled my belongings without my permission.

Nonetheless, what seems worse is letting wet laundry sit for hours in a public washing machine. That’s plain rude and disrespectful to our campus community. Besides poor planning and laziness, I don’t see any reason why people can’t pick up their laundry when it is finished.

I recognize that I’m complaining about laundry as a student who is privileged enough to attend a university that provides free access to laundry machines. I can also see how this is such a “first world problem.” But I do believe that the administration should work to better the University laundry experience. To begin with, laundry facilities should be available in each building. Next, the dryers should be updated to machines that actually dry our clothes, and the laundry machines should be updated to allow more laundry to be loaded in a single wash. Lastly, the University should have the laundry rooms cleaned on a regular basis. If the laundry rooms already receive regular cleaning, the cleanings need to be more frequent and more thorough. 

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Beyond the administration, the student body must also play a role. I don’t necessarily expect the University to suddenly have spotless laundry rooms with better machines in every dorm on campus. But what I do expect is that University students pick up their laundry when it is finished so that no one feels the need to touch someone else’s property. Both of these actions — leaving laundry in machines for too long and touching someone else’s laundry — are disrespectful. Likewise, the fact that basic respect for another student's time and property is severely lacking in Princeton laundry rooms isn’t a “first world problem;" rather, it’s indicative of a universal crisis of character, community, and integrity.

Sure, it’s just laundry. But how we treat each other’s laundry actually says a lot about how we treat each other as people.

Paige Allen is a first-year student from Mountain Top, Pa. She is a copy staffer for The Daily Princetonian. This article represents her views only. She can be reached at peallen@princeton.edu.